The Winter of History:
An Interview with Neil Howe on “The Fourth Turning”
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Everyone agrees that the mood across America is changing rapidly
After a period of seemingly endless market growth and effortless prosperity, we appear to be entering a new period of national urgency and perhaps even global crisis. Worries about financial collapse, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and global instability no longer seem like distant, but immanent dangers.
Neil Howe saw this coming
In his 1997 book The Fourth Turning Howe and his coauthor William Strauss predicted that this was just where America would be today. They uncovered a remarkable pattern in American history, a cycle of recurring eras driven by generational changes. Since then, The Fourth Turning has risen to the top ten on Amazon's all-books-sold list as, again and again, their forecasts turned out to be right.
This exclusive interview with Howe by video journalist Bill Delano will change the way you see the world—and your place in it. With startling originality, Howe illuminates the past, explains the present, and reimagines the future. Most remarkably, he offers an utterly persuasive prophecy about a new era that America is now entering.
- Is a bestselling author of eight books about American generations
- Was featured in the Harvard Business Review for his long-term forecasting method
- Has also been featured on CNN, PBS, and CBS's 60 Minutes
Has advised countless businesses, colleges, government agencies, and political leaders through his consulting company, LifeCourse Associates
Find out what comes next
Howe bases this vision on a provocative new theory of American history. In his bestselling books Generations and The Fourth Turning, he and coauthor William Strauss looked back five hundred years and uncovered a distinct pattern: Modern history moves in cycles, each one lasting about the length of a long human life, and each composed of four eras—or “turnings”—that last about twenty years and always arrive in the same order.
First comes a High, a period of confident expansion as a new order takes root after the old one has been swept away. Next comes an Awakening, a time of spiritual exploration and rebellion against the now-established order. Then comes an Unraveling, an increasingly troubled era in which individualism triumphs over crumbling institutions. Last comes a Crisis—the Fourth Turning—when society passes through a great and perilous gate in history. Together, the four turnings comprise history's seasonal rhythm of growth, maturation, entropy, and rebirth.
Now, more than a decade after The Fourth Turning's release, Howe reveals where America is located in this cycle today: on the brink of a Fourth Turning. In a brilliant analysis of the post-World War II period, he explains how generational dynamics are key to understanding the cycles of American history. He draws vivid portraits of all the modern generations: the can-do G.I.s, the mediating Silent, the values-absorbed Boomers, the pragmatic Gen Xers, and the team-oriented Millennials. Placed in the context of history's long rhythms, the persona and role of each generation becomes clear—as does the inevitability of the coming Crisis.
The Fourth Turning:
“One of the best efforts to give us an integrated vision of where we are going.”
—Wall Street Journal
“If Strauss and Howe are right, they will take their place among the great American prophets.”
How to thrive in a new era
If America is indeed entering a new era of national Crisis, history shows that, over the next two decades, it may become similar in scope to the period of the Great Depression and World War II. In this case, the rules of business and life as usual will all change. Never has it been so important to understand where we are in the cycle—and to look to history for insight into how to prepare.
With the same foresight that animated his books, Howe explains in this remarkable interview exactly what long-term challenges lie ahead. He offers hands-on solutions for how to prepare, from business to personal finance to family life. Using his time-tested method, he reveals how individuals and businesses can not only survive but thrive in a Fourth Turning.
Learn from America's leading generational expert
Neil Howe is a bestselling author, national speaker, and renowned authority on generations in America. He has coauthored many books on generations with William Strauss, all widely used by businesses, colleges, government agencies, and political leaders of both parties.
Their first book Generations (1991) is a history of America told as a sequence of generational biographies. Generations, said Newsweek, is “a provocative, erudite, and engaging analysis of the rhythms of American life.” Vice President Al Gore called it “the most simulating book on American history that I have ever read” and sent a copy to every member of Congress. Newt Gingrich called it “an intellectual tour de force.” The Oakland Tribune raved, “Generations might change the world as much as Darwin's Origins of Species.”
The Wall Street Journal declared their book The Fourth Turning (1997) “One of the best efforts to give us an integrated vision of where we are going.” USA Today called it “a startling vision of what the cycles of history predict for the future.” The Calgary Herald described it as “provocative and convincing and heretical. I, for one, propose to read it a second time.” The public opinion guru Dan Yankelovich described it as, “Immensely stimulating…We will never be able to think about history in the same way.” “If Strauss and Howe are right,” exclaimed the Boston Globe, “they will take their place among the great American prophets.”
Howe and Strauss's book 13th Gen (1993) remains the best selling nonfiction book ever written about Generation X. Howe and Strauss originally coined the term “Millennial Generation.” Their book, Millennials Rising (2000), has been widely quoted in the media for its insistence that today's new crop of teens and kids are very different from Generation X, and, on the whole, doing much better than most adults think. “Forget Generation X—and Y, for that matter,” says the Washington Post. “The authors make short work of most media myths that shape our perceptions of kids these days.” Howe’s work with Millennials in colleges and in the military was recently featured on CBS' 60 Minutes.
Howe is a founding partner of LifeCourse Associates, a consulting firm built around his generational discoveries. LifeCourse gives corporate and nonprofit clients insights into who today’s generations are, what motivates them as consumers and workers, and how they will shape our national future. Their products and services help companies, government agencies, educational institutions, and non-profits solve marketing and workplace problems and exploit strategic opportunities. They have served over two hundred clients in a wide range of sectors—from Nike to Merrill Lynch, from Disney to the U.S. Marine Corps, from MTV and Paramount Pictures to the American Petroleum Institute and Ford Motor Company. A dozen federal agencies have turned to LifeCourse, as have dozens of colleges and K-12 school systems.
LifeCourse has released several application books on Millennials—including a Recruiting Millennials Handbook (2001) for the United States Army, Millennials Go To College (2007), Millennials and the Pop Culture (2005), Millennials & K-12 Schools (2008), and Millennials in the Workplace (2010).